Audeze

LCD-2 Over-Ear Headphones

The beautifully handcrafted LCD-2, the planar magnetic headphone that put Audeze on the map, delivers audiophile quality, low-distortion sound that articulates the power and nuance of your favorite music.

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Rating:
93%
$995.00
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High Notes

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State-of-the-Art Planar Magnetic Driver

Capable of reproducing frequencies in the bottom-end weight with honest transparency and near-zero distortion above 10Hz, the LCD-2 has bigger and fuller bass reproduction that’s more detailed and resolute. The Planar Magnetic driver’s patented magnetic structure ensures all areas of the diaphragm experience the same force proportionally so that the diaphragm produces true piston-like momentum. It’s this patented technology that’s key to its virtually distortion-free listening experience.

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Ultra-Thin Diaphragm Thinner than a Human Hair

To get the LCD-2’s diaphragm to move so fast, it had to be designed incredibly thin. Audeze uses a proprietary material developed by NASA to design a diaphragm for the LCD-2 that’s thinner than a human hair. What’s gained when a diaphragm is made so thin? The lighter and more flexible the diaphragm, the faster it can move like a piston to push and pull the air around it. The faster the diaphragm can move, the better it reproduces sound waves as they occur naturally in the real world.

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Open Soundstage for Warm, Smooth and Accurate Sound

Audeze’s most forgiving headphones in the LCD-series. The LCD-2’s open-back design provides a wide soundstage with wonderful dynamics and top-end rolled off. The LCD-2’s rhythm and pacing and tuneful sense of timing makes our feet tap along with the music.

Company & Product Overview

Like many of the most successful stories in Silicon Valley, Audeze’s bold step into high tech innovation began with humble steps and chance interactions, first. The Audeze origin story really begins with its first open-back headphone: the LCD-2.

Before Audeze was formed, a scientist from NASA had developed a circuit material for aeronautic spacecraft. For NASA, the material had to be ultra-thin, super-strong, dense and flexible. The would-be founders came across the former NASA scientist’s designs, and that’s when a breakthrough happened for planar magnetic technology. To make planar magnetic drivers reproduce sound, diaphragms are made from a thin sheet of film instead of conical drivers. Passionate about accurate sound, the founders immediately recognized the potential of this NASA designed material for planar magnetic transducers. The material’s extreme rigidity and flexibility made it perfect for use as a diaphragm in planar magnetic headphones.

From here, the original LCD-2 was born inside of an Orange County, CA garage in 2008 where its two inventors assembled the first product-runs. Similar to the startup story of Apple, the duo started Audeze together from a unique perspective that would eventually offer more potential for headphone users. Sharing a passion for headphones as “personal audio devices,” the Audeze LCD-2 launched its inventors like a rocket ship from these humble beginnings assembling headphones in a garage into the leaders of planar magnetic technology we recognize today.

One of its co-founders, Sankar Thiagasamudram, steered Audeze to become one of the most influential brands in the industry. With Sankar at the helm as CEO, Audeze headphones went on to win awards, including Stereophile Magazine’s Product of the Year in 2014 and CES’s Digital Trends’ Top Tech in 2015. Speaking of Apple, Alex Rosson, the other Audeze co-founder helped make a deal with the giant smartphone maker, inking a partnership with the major retailer for the brand Rosson helped co-create.

The LCD-2 was the first headphone built and sold by Audeze. With a decade of revisions and improvements since the original, the LCD-2 represents that first bold step into the luxury high-end headphone market that’s since stood the test of time. Now, as part of the brand’s Origins Collection series, the LCD-2 has earned the brand its position as the world’s leading manufacturer of planar magnetic headphones. Like all Audeze headphones, the LCD-2 is still engineered and handcrafted in the USA at their Southern California facility.

According to Audeze, the LCD-2 retains the iconic warmth, tonal balance and powerful bass that made it such a customer favorite since the original release back in 2008. For users looking for a high-end headphone for at-home listening that exemplifies the “Audeze experience” and tradition, Audeze assures shoppers the highly refined LCD-2 is poised to please. Stay tuned. In this review, we’ll let you know how well Audeze delivers on that promise, and how well it performs during our inspection. Is it the right headphone for you? Read more to find out.

Audeze LCD-2 packaging

Packaging, Design & Build Quality

In the box, Audeze includes an unbalanced 1.9m 1/4-inch to dual 4-pin mini XLR cable, a user guide, and an official Audeze warranty card. Also, a professional travel case for storing the LCD-2’s is generously bundled with the package. The hardshell travel case offers substantial “pro”-level protection, and we think it’s a nice touch that’ll help protect the LCD-2’s natural wood-grain finish plus a lot more.

The interior-cavity of the case is deep and lined with extra thick padding that fits the LCD-2’s angular-shaped geometry, snuggly. There’s barely any wiggle room for the LCD-2 to move around when seated in this case. So in theory, we’d expect the case’s secure inner-padding to substantially protect the LCD-2’s more delicate internal electronics from impacts, even if tossed around while inside of it. Also, of interesting note is the case’s thick hard shell exoskeleton. The case’s exterior feels sturdy and durable enough to protect the LCD-2 from greater-than-average impacts. The protection of the bundled case reminds us of third-party cases sold separately to protect similar high-end equipment for professionals. We feel this goes a long way in helping users protect the investment from unnecessary damage, and its inclusion here is a thoughtful practice we’d like to see more from other manufacturers in this headphone’s class.

The LCD-2’s ear cups are outfitted with rare Shedua natural wood rings. Popular with guitar luthiers for its acoustic properties in electric guitar bodies, the exotic Shedua is a softer African wood species often selected for musical instruments because of its flexibility and lightweight. The natural Shedua wood finish has a handsome light to medium brown color that complements the LCD-2’s darker aesthetics. From its black leather and steel suspension headband to the black metal grillwork that decorates the backsides of its open-back ear cups, the LCD-2 oozes sophistication. Add in the black premium leather that covers the larger-than-life ear cushions, and that touch of natural Shedua wood really rounds out the LCD-2’s dark sensibilities. Overall, the LCD-2 has a cutting-edge look that pairs well with its sound signature — warm, smooth, accurate, and iconic.

The LCD-2 is handcrafted in-house in the company’s Southern California facility, so the same quality standards established by the brand’s founders seem to be well-baked into the LCD-2’s DNA. The attention to detail here is exceptional, and up close, it shows. Holding it, the build quality is immediately evident in the LCD-2’s design throughout. The LCD-2 feels like it was engineered with the precision of a tank in our hands. However, thanks to the lightweight materials selected for it, wearing the LCD-2 isn’t as heavy as it’s outstanding build quality suggests.

Audeze LCD-2

Performance

With distortion nearly eliminated, the LCD-2 can sing accurately with precision and detail. Frequency response from 10Hz to 50kHz allows the LCD-2 to reproduce big bottom-end weight with the resolution that’s quite simply, superb. Don’t expect great sound when connecting the LCD-2 directly with a laptop or smart device. You’ll need a good headphone amp with the power to properly drive it, if you want to experience the LCD-2 to the fullest potential. If you like the Audeze sound, and you want to connect directly with a smart device, consider the Audeze DX On-Ear, the LCD-1 Open-Back, or the Mobius Headphone and Gaming Headset, instead. Like many high-end headphones in this class, the top-end extension of 50kHz allows the LCD-2 to breathe effortlessly well beyond the range that humans hear. At 70 ohms, users can expect to squeeze out every last drop of performance from the LCD-2 by connecting it with a good DAC/headphone amp. After allowing the burn-in process to work its magic on the LCD-2, we connected our test unit to the Naim V1 DAC/headphone amp. This allowed us to drive the LCD-2 to peak performance.

The LCD-2’s full sonic potential really came alive on the classic rock hit “Dreams” recorded in 1977 by Fleetwood Mac on the band’s eleventh studio album, “Rumours.” Immediately, the tight groove played with focused intent by Mick Fleetwood’s steady foot on the kick drum pedal and a heavy hand on the snare grabbed our attention. Listening with the LCD-2’s, we heard details in Mick’s playing style that provided new insights into the subtle ways the iconic drummer liked to mix it up. Here, Mick juxtaposes a deliberately played straightforward kick and snare against a noticeably softer and more gentle flicking of the wrist on a muted closed high hat cymbal. The interesting approach to percussion on the intro of this song invited us into the intimate world of the band. Right off the bat, we experienced a little “aha” moment with the LCD-2s. The level of intimacy and detail the LDC-2 presented here felt inclusive as if we were granted an all-access pass to the band. Nice!

Listening further, the electric bass guitar enters into the LCD-2’s soundstage, and it’s glued satisfyingly to Mick’s solidly played kick and snare foundation. The bottom-end weight here is clear and transparent. We could pick apart the mix between the two instruments effortlessly if we wanted to. However, the warmth of the bottom-end weight blends so well together in the LCD-2’s soundstage, it was easy to simply kick back and relax into the details happening musically in their interaction. We couldn’t help getting lost in the bigger picture of the song, and the LCD-2’s open soundstage helped us do that.

By the time Stevie Nicks sings her first line, “Now here you go again, you say we want your freedom…” we were entranced. Her voice sings angelically from a sense of presentation that’s wonderfully oriented outside the head. It was almost as if Nicks was singing down to us from somewhere above just like it would sound if she were standing on the stage. As soon as the chorus drops, we could hear each plucked string of an acoustic guitar being strummed hard left in the LCD-2’s soundstage. Each plucked string resonates naturally with a brilliant sheen that sizzled with accurate harmonic details in the LCD-2’s left ear cup. All the guitar’s content, from its rhythm and pacing to its tuneful sense of timing makes our feet tap along with the music. The LCD-2’s open back design made the guitar’s orientation in the left stereo field sound “wider,” “bigger” and more real with a sense of presentation that sounds like a live band.

When a track titled “Slide,” also recorded in 1977, appeared next in our queue by the retro-funk outfit, Slave, we almost fell out of our seats when we heard the bottom-end weight with the LCD-2. As an open-back headphone, the LCD-2’s soundstage has a “live” sound that’s similar to a loudspeaker. This feature came to life when the recording’s “plucky” electric bass guitar slides into the mix (pun intended) with a tone that’s so resolute and “thick,” it sounds almost three-dimensional. Seriously, the bass guitar’s musical tone is painted on so thick here, if we could take a bite out of it, we totally would! Superlatives aside, the LCD-2’s proprietary planar magnetic drivers presented accurate low-end frequencies with near-zero distortion and tight resolute bass that stood out impressively on the bassline in this recording.

After hearing such a big warm low-end with ultra-low distortion in the previous song, we decided to push the performance of LCD-2’s bass response even further. This time, we pressed play on Rihanna’s 2011 Electro House hit “We Found Love,” featuring Calvin Harris. As a modern track that was recorded almost entirely “in-the-box” with a computer’s digitally-emulated synthesis instead of analogue recording techniques, it’s a “harsher” purely-digital recording that’s great for low-end testing. At first, the house-inspired Fender Rhodes electric piano stabs cut fiercely through the mix. At louder volumes, the intensity of transients on the Fender Rhodes electric pianos was a bit too harsh for our tastes, which might cause slight ear fatigue for users who are particularly more sensitive to these higher mid-range frequencies. However, the 808-style kick drums bounce resolutely and without any perceived distortion, making our heads bob up and down with the pulsing hypnotic four-to-the-floor beat. Again, the LCD-2’s ability to reproduce big bass with ultra-low distortion is exemplified at max performance. Once again, the LCD-2 delivers on that promise. In terms of low-distortion, it's safe to say the LCD-2 passed our big bottom-end weight test.

As a purely-digital recording, another great test a modern track like this reveals is how forgiving a headphone is on poorer quality recordings. Interestingly, even though we streamed the track with Tidal’s hi-res MQA service at 44.1 / 24 bit, the LCD-2 actually revealed the digital artifacts and other issues hiding in the recording. Today, with modern recording techniques being what they are with all the modern conveniences of virtualization in software, the level of detail the LCD-2 exposed here in this recording was remarkable. As “the most forgiving” in the Audeze LCD series, the proprietary planar magnetic drivers are so precise, no detail (good or bad) can hide from the LCD-2. At this level of detail, it’s hard to imagine how much more resolution there can be further up the LCD-line. For the money, the LCD-2 is one of the most powerful headphones you buy at this price.

LCD-2

Overall Recommendation

At $995.00, the Audeze LCD-2 is priced reasonably in the upper-midrange category. So, is it worth it?

For users who listen to detail-oriented music that’s organic and natural, we give the LCD-2 open-back headphone two solid thumbs up. As the most forgiving planar magnetic headphone in the Audeze Origin Collection, our impression of the LCD-2 is that it suits almost all kinds of music, but the LCD-2’s true potential shines the most on Rock, Blues, Jazz, Classical and Funk music. As always, making the decision comes down to your unique ergonomic application. For more information on that, read our Headphone Buyer’s Guide for more help choosing the right headphone.

To compare all the Audeze models together in one convenient place, check out our other Audeze Headphone reviews. If you need the best headphones for the money for on-the-go listening in more public settings, then consider a closed-back headphone like the Audeze LCD2 closed-back, instead. However, if you’re a music lover who likes getting lost in the music, and if you prefer to listen to the most subtle details and dynamics that really draw you into the music, gosh, who wouldn’t choose these?! At this price, the LCD-2 is a steal. It delivers exceptional value in a great fitting well-thought-out package. It’s that amazing. For more satisfying listening sessions that are unapologetically immersive in the privacy of your home or private office, at this price, choose for the LCD-2 and never look back. For natural music that’s detail-oriented, we can’t recommend the Audeze LCD-2 more.

Sound Signature: Warm/Smooth/Accurate.

Who it’s for: Home Music Lover.

What it’s for: All types of music, but it shines the most on organic genres (Rock, Blues, Jazz, Classical and Funk).

How to get peak performance: Connect with a good DAC/headphone amp At Home or in Private Settings

More Information
SeriesLCD
Weight1.00 lbs
Additional Information

The beautifully handcrafted LCD-2, the planar magnetic headphone that put Audeze on the map, delivers audiophile quality, low-distortion sound that articulates the power and nuance of your favorite music.

The LCD-2 is the most forgiving of poor recordings in the Audeze LCD Collection, with a beautiful, musical, and warm presentation that communicates the power and glory of music. It'smusically rich, and seductive and requires a headphone amplifier.

  • Acoustically engineered
  • Diaphragms thinner than a human hair
  • Near zero distortion
  • Nearly double the magnetic driving force
  • The LCD-2 is thoroughly engineered for long-term comfort and beautiful sound.
Ear CouplingOver-Ear
Transducer TypePlanar magnetic
Connection TypeWired
Sensitivity101 db
Inputs1/4" (6.35mm)
Impedance70 Ohms
Frequency Response5Hz - 20kHz
Drivers106mm Planar Magentic
AdjustabilityClick
Cable Length98.4"
Carrying CaseHardshell
Operating PrincipleOpen-Back
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